The Philadelphia Eagles surpassed preseason expectations this season.
Most observers thought they would struggle as new coach Chip Kelly attempted to rebuild the team and establish a new culture. Instead, they went 10-6 during the regular season to win the NFC East for the first time since 2010 and earn the No. 3 seed in the conference playoffs before losing 26-24 to New Orleans last weekend in the wild-card round.
As they head into the offseason, it's time to look back at some of the plays and players who contributed to that surprising success.
Best game: There were a few contenders, but we'll go with their 54-11 victory over Chicago on Dec. 22. It was their most complete performance of the season against a Bears team that barely missed making the playoffs. Running back LeSean McCoy rushed for 133 yards and all but sewed up the NFL rushing title. Cornerback Brandon Boykin returned an interception 56 yards for a touchdown.
Worst game: The Eagles turned in a terrible performance in a 48-30 loss at Minnesota on Dec. 15. They were favored by more than two touchdowns against a Vikings team that was missing several key players, including star running back Adrian Peterson. But Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel and a cast of backups dominated them.
Best play (offense): Wide receiver Riley Cooper made a fantastic, one-handed catch on a high pass from Nick Foles against Arizona on Dec. 1, spun away from a Cardinals defender and raced up the side for a 24-yard gain. (Other contenders: quarterback Michael Vick's 63-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DeSean Jackson vs. San Diego, and McCoy's 57-yard TD run through the snow against Detroit.)
Worst play (offense): One play after Cooper's incredible grab, Kelly decided to have wide receiver Brad Smith line up at quarterback in a wildcat formation on first-and-goal from the 6. Smith dropped the snap and was tackled for a 4-yard loss. (Other contenders: botched lateral that Washington's DeAngelo Hall returned 75 yards for a TD, and Cooper's dropped pass against New Orleans).
Best play (defense): Boykin scored the Eagles' only defensive touchdown this season by returning an interception 54 yards against the Bears. (Other contenders: Boykin's interception at Dallas, Trent Cole's safety against Washington, and Cary Williams' two-point conversion breakup at Dallas).
Worst play (defense): All of the plays in New Orleans' final drive qualify. The defense came up short when it counted, allowing the Saints to move close enough for Shayne Graham to boot a 32-yard field goal with no time remaining to seal the Eagles' loss. (Other contenders: Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings' 57-yard touchdown pass from Cassel, and Oakland wide receiver Rod Streater's 66-yard pass from quarterback Terrelle Pryor).
Best play (special teams): Not a lot to choose from here. Linebacker Najee Goode scored the Eagles' only special-teams touchdown against the Giants when long-snapper Zak DeOssie snapped the ball over punter Steve Weatherford's head. Goode grabbed it at the 2-yard line and scored. (Other contenders: Donnie Jones' 70-yard punt against Washington, and Jones' 69-yarder the next week against Arizona).
Worst play (special teams): Plenty to choose from here. We'll go with Trindon Holliday's 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown - the longest ever against the Eagles - in Denver's 52-20 victory. (Other contenders: Jeremy Ross' two returns for touchdowns for Detroit, and Cary Williams' horse-collar tackle against the Saints).
Unluckiest player: Vick won the starting job over Foles in the preseason but suffered a strained hamstring in the fifth game and spent the second half of the season on the bench. (Other contenders: Wide receivers Arrelious Benn and Jeremy Maclin).
Best offseason acquisition: Linebacker Connor Barwin, who signed with the Eagles as an unrestricted free agent, emerged as one of their top players and an effective leader during the season. (Other contenders: cornerback Bradley Fletcher, tackle Lane Johnson, and punter Jones).
Worst offseason acquisition: Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga signed with the Eagles as a free agent and proclaimed the team would "shock the world." He was traded to New England on Oct. 29. (Other contenders: safety Patrick Chung and safety Kenny Phillips).
Best opponent (offense): Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers threw for 419 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-30 victory on Sept. 15. (Other contenders: Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings).
Best opponent (defense): Lions returner Jeremy Ross churned through the snow to score on a 58-yard punt return and a 98-yard kickoff return on Dec. 8. (Other contenders: Giants place-kicker Josh Brown, Holliday, Saints returner Darren Sproles).
Turning point: Foles took over for Vick for good prior to the ninth game of the season when the Eagles were 3-5. He led them to a 7-1 record for the rest of the regular season.
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